It’s a lot of cars and in their shape-sizely variety for a small, cash-strapped kingdom that finances its development activities through loans it receives from wealthier nations.
This is probably the reason “poor country-rich people” phrase is euphemistically attached to the country in indication of its ill-advised financial bearing.
The deluge of vehicles, mostly Indian brand on the Bhutanese roads make its stringent environmental conservation policies and actions seem futile and moot.
Today, choking the country’s existing road network is some more than 92,000 vehicles the road and transport authority recorded as of December end 2017. The bung up on infrastructure is felt mainly in the capital city of Thimphu, the destination for a majority of the vehicles, more than 50 percent of the total number of vehicles at 47,753. The total growth was by almost 8,000 vehicles from over 84,000 recorded around the same time in 2016.
In simple mathematics, that’s like more than 600 vehicles being driven on to Bhutanese roads every month, or more startlingly, more than 20 a day.
The highest growth in vehicle number was recorded between 2015 and 2016, which saw more than 9,000 enter the country, just a year or so after the new government lifted the restrictions the earlier government imposed on import of vehicles sometime in 2012.
The Indian Rupee crunch the country faced since 2010, triggered by quite something else actually, the initiation of mega-hydropower projects and housing boom, pushed the former government to prohibit financial institution from providing loans for vehicle purchases.
That fleeting measure worked to an extent. Between 2012 and 2013 that the vehicle loan restriction was on, the country saw only about 470 vehicles hit the Bhutanese roads. With the restrictions lifted as the new government was sworn into office around mid 2013, the import of vehicles shot up by more than 5,500 between 2014 and 2015.
The 100 percent tax on import of cars, including duties and green tax, have done very little to curb the growth of vehicles.
While there have probably been no studies conducted to understand the trend, it is believed has to do with swiftly growing population, especially in urban areas from rural-urban migration, generating both commuters and providers of services.
The better way to explain this is as an indication of economic prosperity.
Public transportation has not received the government’s attention, or priority. Besides, the problem remains that public transportation is culturally not seen as an attractive option compared to a self-owned car. It has to do with the prestige a car bring to a Bhutanese family.